57 of us attended the Annual Parish Meeting and Annual Parochial Church Meeting of Itchen Valley Parish on Thursday 25th March 2021 on zoom.
Revd Alex Pease chaired the meeting leading us through the Annual Meeting of Parishioners and the Annual Parochial Church Meeting with the assistance of Verity Coleman the PCC Secretary and Rolls Coleman the PCC Treasurer. Although these meetings are often like a meeting of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (everything agreed in advance and all votes are unanimous) there is no lack of warmth and moments of humour also.
Election of Churchwardens
The churchwardens recommended by each District Church Council were elected and it was resolved to extend the period that churchwardens can serve by a year to 7 years. The following churchwardens were appointed: Avington Dan Day Robinson, Easton Theo Mezger and Chris Ellis, Itchen Abbas Sarah Hunt and Tim Clapp Martyr Worthy Robin Greenwood and Sara Mason.
Beccy Clark, the Electoral Roll Officer reported that there are now 155 people on the Electoral Roll which is a decrease of 12 on 2020 and 13 people live outside the parish.
The Annual Report which follows was taken as read:
Statement on Finances
Rolls Coleman then gave a statement on the Finances as follows:
This is my third and final APCM – every year it’s been a pleasure as it’s much easier to tell a financial story when things are in good shape. There has only been 6 months since the last one and 2020 has been a financial challenge for the Parish.
- As the churches were locked down, we lost income from fundraising, collections and fees
- However, our regular giving has been maintained and the day-to-day running costs have also been reduced by not doing any discretionary work
- Therefore, even though our original Budget of breaking even on the general fund has not been met, we came very close
- Major work has been carried out on 2 of the churches on budget despite the restrictions arising from lockdowns
Looking at a little more detail, the general fund had:
Income last year was £119k, £7k lower than 2019
- the largest contributor being regular giving via the Parish Giving Scheme or SO (£89k inc. GA). This is especially important to the financial resilience of the Parish as this pandemic has demonstrated.
- Collections and fees for funerals and weddings contributed £10k, £9k lower than last year.
- Fund Raising was £7k from 2 separate events. In particular, the Plant sale, including sales of Philip Windsor-Aubrey’s woodwork, raised over £7k, £2k of which went to the MW Fabric Fund, an amazing result as lockdown started 2 weeks before it was due to take place, so we had all the plants but no event at which to sell them. Huge thanks to Katherine Impey, Sophie Parry and all those involved in matching plants with people. The Southwold Players contributed £2k from their production of The Hollow. Thanks to Lavinia and Nick Owen
- The diocese contributed a further£10k towards our Admin costs as part of the 3-year transition grant.
Expenditure was £127k, £3k lower than 2019.
- The contribution to the diocese Common Mission Fund was £74k. This is calculated based on our worshipping community and an affluence factor and as a successful parish this had been increasing faster than inflation. However, the Diocese has major financial challenges because of the pandemic and they have had to restructure as many Parishes have not made their contribution.
- Admin and bookkeeping cost £20k
- Day to day running costs were £32k which works out at £8k pa per church so less than £1k per month per church
Overall, therefore, the General Fund ended the year at £123k, down £7k from the end of 2019. This remains well above the PCC target of keeping a minimum of 9 months spending which would be £96k.
Turning now to each churches’ restricted funds:
Martyr Worthy managed to carry out their major quinquennial work as lockdown relaxed spending £33k this year (£43k in total) and the project came in within the budget. The fund was topped up by contributions from the Friends of Martyr Worthy and the Were Fund and ended the year at £20k, down £10k from the end of 2019.
Avington also had quinquennial work spending £12k, also on budget, and their fund was topped up by £10k from the Were Fund so the balance was £11k, down £2k.
Easton had very little building activity last year and their fabric fund benefitted from donations towards the potential extension and the audio-visual upgrade. The balance at the year-end was £46k, up £26k.
Itchen Abbas also had a quiet year and their fabric fund remained at £27k.
The Were fund reduced from £42K to £22k after contributing to the work at Martyr Worthy and Avington.
So bringing all that together the Parish had a deficit of £12k and ended the year with funds of £250k, split roughly equally between the unrestricted general fund and the fabric funds.
Looking forward to this year, we have budgeted for a general fund surplus of £2k in anticipation of church activities returning to normal around the middle of this year. The audio-visual project will cost about £27k which has been covered by donations. Easton DCC is continuing to move forward on the Development at St Mary’s, but it is not expected to incur major expenditure this year. Both Itchen Abbas and Easton have quinquennial work which is currently being scoped.
We are planning to look at the way we handle our funds this year. The Parish has 3 bank accounts, an Investment cash account and 4 equity-based investment accounts so there is scope for simplification.
Parish Bookkeeper and Finance Committee
I would like to thank Janet Denyer, the Parish bookkeeper, who did most of the legwork on these Accounts and has been a huge support throughout the year. I would also like to thank my colleagues on the Finance Committee for their wise and sensible counsel, Robin Greenwood and Henry Labram.
I would also like to thank our independent examiner, Stephen Hendy of Data Developments. He completed the work very quickly to meet the tight deadlines this year.
So, the bottom line is that the Parish Finances remain solid. This is down to the generosity and commitment of all of you. There was a financial structure that we hoped would be able to handle difficult times and it did
The following were elected as Parish Representatives to the Deanery Synod to fill casual vacancies: Itchen Abbas: Sally Parker and Avington: Sonia Cragg.
The following were elected as Parish Representatives to the PCC and as alternates: Helen Wayne, Peter Thacker, Sara Janssen, Phoebe Culshaw, Sally Parker, Nicky Barber.
The following were appointed as sidesmen:
Avington – Sonia Cragg, Dan Day Robinson, Penny Flemons, Helen Wayne
Easton – David Anderson, Judy Bishop, Jill Croft, Penelope Kellie, Sara Janssen, Sue Kennedy, Judith Mezger, David Swinstead
Itchen Abbas – Charlotte Appleby, Patrick Appleby, John Bouldin,, Joan Dartnall, Lavinia Owen, Nick Owen, Sally Parker, Toby Stubbs
Martyr Worthy – Christopher Burness, Verity Coleman, Simon Ffennell, Gilly Greenwood, Robin Greenwood, Guy Green, Joanna Lang, John Lang, Sara Mason, Liz Platt, John Platt, John Prince, Richard Seymour, Jo Sutcliffe, Robert Sutcliffe, Emily Windsor Aubrey, Philip Windsor Aubrey
Stephen Hendy of Data Developments was appointed as Independent Examiner
Revd Alex Pease gave the following speech:
Well here we are!
My last APCM as your Rector, bringing to an end nine years of licensed ministry in Itchen Valley.
As I said in the Annual Report for 2020, I have felt that my entire life has been leading towards this period of being your Rector and I have poured all my experiences of life into it. ….As many will have noticed in my preaching…And I have enjoyed every single moment. It is very sad to be putting it down.
But I don’t in this speech want to look back – I did that in the Annual Report. Rather I want to look forward….
Someone once said, ‘A church is what remains when the vicar has left’. This evening, I want to reflect on who I perceive, after nine years of licensed ministry here, you to be in Christ, and I want to note what I believe will remain after I step down, what my successor will inherit, whoever he or she may be…..So, I want to say something about the character of people in the Itchen Valley, particularly those who make up our church:
Firstly: You are: kind and warm, welcoming, and hospitable.
Itchen Valley is a beautiful place and, I believe that beauty is reflected in the kindness of its inhabitants. You may say ‘Well isn’t every church like this?’ And the answer is, sadly, ‘no’. Many churches, often rural churches, are riven by terrible conflict by terrible divisions. PCC meetings can be a nightmare, of anger and posturing which make Jackie Weaver’s famous Parish Council meetings, look like a walk in the park. Itchen Valley Parish is not like that, our PCC meetings are a delight!
You have, throughout my time here, behaved with great courtesy to each other and kindness to each other, listening to each other and being willing to help. When you disagree, you disagree well, you look after your neighbours, without any fuss, it seems to come naturally to you. And so, even in lockdown, we have seen the work of the Valley Visitors and Cameo to continue to flourish
It is a joy to be part of a church like this
Secondly, you are unified.
It wasn’t easy, by all accounts when you took the brave journey, about 15 years or so ago, to merge the four parishes into one. But despite all the angst of those years long past, now it is the norm, rather than the exception, to travel to services wherever they are, rather than only attending services in your own village. This is a trend which I think has been solidified through lockdown. And you have become friends across the villages.
And now you are helping other parishes achieve this. Rolls, Gerry, Simon and I have had zoom calls with parishes near and far on how this was achieved. Everyone now wants to know. One vicar in Suffolk described our unity as ‘living the dream’. To have achieved such unity not only in legal form, but also in behaviour in a relatively short time is a huge achievement.
But you have also achieved unity in another area. This is unity between those who prefer more informal worship and those who prefer the traditional. For example, we now see a number of people at our informal contemporary services, for whom modern worship music Is not their preference…And we also see those who prefer that sort of music and way of worshipping also at our traditional, Parish Communion services.
This doesn’t mean that we have all become the same…Not a bit of it! But rather that I think we now know more about the differing range of ways of worshipping God there is in the Church of England and have, I hope, more respect for the differing positions and preferences held by others.
Unity brings great spiritual blessings. It enables the Holy Spirit to cause the church to grow and grow….It is a great thing to be achieving.
Thirdly, I believe that each of you have moved along way in your individual spiritual journeys during the last few years. It has been so encouraging to see. And made all the effort worthwhile…
The biggest danger of being lovely people who are unified with each other can be, how can I put this delicately….the biggest danger of being who we are, can be spiritual complacency….
This is when we feel that in comparison with the world or other people in the world..such as axe murderers and thieves for example, or even just Londoners…In comparison with them…we may feel that we are really good neighbours, we are good and kind and very ‘Christian’ in the way we behave. And so the danger is that we don’t see the pressing need to be constantly seeking to change to become more and more like Jesus in the way that we are, In the way that we aspire to live…
Its so easy to stay in that warm comfortable place of complacency and to prefer not to allow ourselves to be challenged by the gospel, not to find ourselves having to yield to Jesus’ will for our lives over our particular wishes. But Father God calls us to more.
So it is very encouraging that so many of you give me the impression that you have really shifted out of this perspective during the last few years, that you have realised that being a Christian, being a follower of Christ Is going on a journey in which we change to conform more and more to Jesus’ image. It’s a journey which never stops and which, during our life times at least, never reaches its destination.
So, to summarise, you are kind, unified and are shaking off the comfortable coat of spiritual complacency.
But what of the future?
I won’t be involved in the selection of my successor, Its the PCC’s responsibility, and particularly the two selectors that the PCC will choose. It’s so important that you decide who you want for the future.
But, if I may, please indulge me, I would like to give the benefit of a little wisdom, based on my nine years here and based upon what I have said already and who I perceive you to be, which you may like to bear in mind.
It will not be very easy to fill this post because, as you all know, it is only a half stipend appointment, that means it is paid half the small salary paid to clergy. But, of course, it does come with a nice house!
There is currently only one other half stipend appointment in the whole Deanery, that is Revd. Clare Welham in Ropley. She is married to a senior teacher, and so that’s how they manage.
She describes the availability of half stipend clergy as being as rare ‘as hens’ teeth’.
So you are more likely to get someone, at the end of their career, or just possibly right at the beginning…
So you need to think carefully of what really matters to you in the selection of someone.
And you may want to consider the following four points which strike me as being important for you, after nine years here
Get someone who likes you and who is like you.
You are warm, kind and welcoming, make sure that he or she is as well!
Select someone who is going to challenge us to travel further down the journey of spirituality, the journey of knowing and yielding to Jesus which we have begun and not allow us to slip back into the warm bath of spiritual complacency. I say ‘us’ because I see it as a danger for me too and I am going to remain, I hope, a member of this church community
You have achieved so much in becoming unified both in villages but also in worship style, make sure that he or she can lead and inspire both the traditionalists and the modernists in the congregation, and not just one or the other
And fourthly and finally
Don’t see the selection as a procurement exercise. See it as a spiritual exercise. By this I mean, its not the same as selecting a builder, or a solicitor, or even a nanny. It’s not a chance to recall what it was like to be Head of Human Resources of your company or how you decided upon a contractor for your extension!
Its a spiritual discernment process, it requires prayer from everyone and seeking to hear from God before you make decisions. It requires prayer before you select the two selectors and in discernment of the right candidate. And it involves listening carefully to what God might be saying to you. Which might be different from what you thought at first.
Because, if the Holy Spirit is working in this place, (as I know him to be), as you pray, incredible things will happen: timings will be just right, decisions will be taken at the perfect moment, and you will be surprised by what God can do. And I believe you will find yourself with an excellent candidate, in fact, a much better candidate than you could possibly imagine or expect, in the ordinary course of events…
So, to reiterate what I said, In the annual report. thank you to each of you for everything that you have done, for God and for the church and for me during this time of leading your parish….
And a particular thank you to Lucy who has supported me through the whole of this ministry and before with great patience and has contributed so much to what has been done here, much more than many people realise.
It has been enormous fun for both Lucy and I to lead your church, we have loved getting to know you all. We hope to continue to be good friends and neighbours as we stay in the community, and in this church, but not in this role.
With many blessings for the future in a place where I have confidence that the Holy Spirit Is going to continue to do incredible things.
Deputy Lay Chair Address
Theo Mezger Lay Deputy Chairman of the PCC gave the following speech:
My text is this evening is taken from Matthew chapter 25 verse 23 ’Well done, good and faithful servant’…… ’Well done, good and faithful servant’. You may recall that this phrase is taken from the parable of the talents, particularly the servant who was given two talents and returned to his master with four.
Alex: This story is all about you here in the Parish of the Itchen Valley.
You first came to us as a curate some 9 years ago, fresh faced and still wet behind the ears and we have so thoroughly enjoyed the benefit of your strong leadership ever since. Andrew Mickelfield left us all too soon but bequeathed to you solid foundations upon which to build your extraordinary ministry. A period immediately followed during which you loyally kept your own counsel and used it to listen, to learn and to prepare for what was to follow.
Kindly, you gave Robin and myself an easy ride through the interview process. Not asking too many awkward questions. ….. Indeed, it was a bit of a stich up!
Alex: I believe it was on 15th April, 2018 that I, proudly, staff in hand, escorted Bishop David down the aisle of St Mary’s at your installation as our Priest in Charge or Rector as we prefer to call you.
That was the start of a truly inspired journey, led by you,….. hand in hand with the God, …..with us as willing followers.
If anyone has any doubt as to what Alex has achieved over these last three years you need only read this year’s magnificent Annual Report from cover to cover. Whilst Alex has not initiated everything reported in this tome, he has had an inspirational impact on every single item and on so many other things that are not written up.
Each one of us will have your own reflections of the way in which Alex’s ministry has touched our lives. Whilst I have many, a few that spring to my mind are:
- Your emotive intonation of ‘Come Holy Spirit’, ….. ‘Come Holy Spirit’ every time to say the Eucharistic prayer;
- Your ability to so delicately negotiate the balance between the traditional and the modern;
- Many inspirational sermons, ….. I am still pondering upon my ‘waiting on tables’;
- Such frankness, modesty and humbleness when leading the marriage course;
- Your regular visits to the pubs and Brew with a View, purely to engage with the widest community, …… and perhaps to enjoy the odd slice of Ina’s delicious gluten free cakes;
- Magical river baptisms, where the Holy Spirit has been truly present;
- The growth of modern worship, with so many remarkable testimonies;
- 24 hour vigils, following which miracles have occurred;
- your ‘obsessive’ – according to Lucy – attention to our magnificent website;
- the sheer boldness of some of your moves, many of which have not come from the training ground; and ……
- that trilby.
By the way, even though you have achieved so much, I still eagerly await that draft copy of your book that you keep rabbiting on about, on how to run a rural parish! Does it exist? Will we identify ourselves between its covers?
However, Alex, we believe that behind the scenes, all this has been a great team effort; you have a fantastic right-hand lady.
Lucy: …. we know that you are always there, coming up with ideas, encouraging, promoting patience and perseverance and picking up the pieces when not everything is quite perfect, …. he is a perfectionist. You are Alex’s rock. Be sure we recognise this, we love you for it and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts…
Fellow parishioners, I wish to propose a humongous vote of thanks to Alex and Lucy for all the amazing work they have done for us … and the parish at large, over the last 9 years but … before you all go absolutely wild with a standing ovation, another matter.
As today we are hindered by COVID, we would like you all to reconvene at 6pm on Friday 25th June at the Farmyard, Easton where we shall lavish further praise and thanks, present gifts, feast and otherwise make merry.
Oh Rector and Lucy, ….. you started with two talents and now we have four. Thank you, thank you.
May God bless you with a long and very peaceful retirement.